Eldon Mustangs, Osage Indians, Camdenton Lakers and Versailles Tigers

Keys to the Game for Eldon and School of the Osage

It does not get much better than a pair of old rivals meeting on the gridiron for the regular season finale.

Eldon (1-7, 1-5 Tri-County Conference) and Osage (2-6, 1-5 Tri-County Conference) will renew their annual meeting on Friday night when the Mustangs host their Lake area neighbors for a Tri-County Conference clash at 7 p.m.

The rivalry is all the motivation either side needs, but the winner will get to close out the regular season on a positive note heading into the district playoffs and this game will also have an implication on district seeding. Eldon is coming off a tough 49-26 loss at Versailles and the Mustangs currently hold the seventh seed in the Class 3 District 5 standings with 19.07 points. Osage was dealt a tough 57-7 blow by a Blair Oaks team last week that is currently ranked as the best in Class 3 and holds the top spot in the same district standings. The Indians are just ahead of Eldon in the sixth spot with 20.23 points, respectively.

Eldon won last season’s meeting 31-12 over its longtime rival and the Mustangs have a chance to make it four straight, including the playoffs, with a win over Osage Friday night. The Indians undoubtedly have other plans in mind and time will soon tell which side gets the momentum it needs in another fun show beneath the “Friday Night Lights.”

ELDON KEYS

1. Victory at Victor

This season may not have gone how Eldon would have liked with one win to claim so far in 2019 that came on October 4 in a Homecoming shootout over California. However, the Mustangs have an opportunity to protect home turf one last time on Friday night as it will likely be the final home game of 2019 and final home game for Eldon’s seniors. The privilege of hosting a playoff game in week 10 is reserved for the top four seeds and with the Mustangs about 12 points out of the fourth spot, the team will likely be on the road next week. So- playing with that in mind- Eldon will have all the incentive to not only keep its winning streak going against its rival, but make sure there are nothing but good memories for the final show at Mustang Memorial Park. This team is certainly capable of doing just that.

2. Trust the Wing-T

It may not have resulted in a win last week, but Eldon’s linemen were winning most of their battles in the trenches at Versailles and it allowed the Mustangs to keep moving the chains in the run-heavy Wing-T offense. The Tigers knew what was coming and it largely did not matter as the team was still able to put up 313 rushing yards averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Eldon was three yards shy of a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, despite attempting one single pass. Put together a similar showing Friday night against Osage and Eldon can control the clock and potentially the scoreboard, forcing the Indians to have to move quickly. Senior fullback Kaden Dillon continues to lead the way with 903 yards and 12 touchdowns and the Mustangs are hoping sophomore quarterback Dallas Hardy (616 rushing yards and eight touchdowns) will be good to go after leaving the Versailles game with an injury. Junior tailback Braydy Hill (446 rushing yards and three touchdowns) is also a playmaking threat as Eldon faces a defense giving up 31.3 points per game.

3. Disciplined Defense

School of the Osage is at its best when the Indians can keep things balanced, showing multiple formations and looks. Therefore, the Eldon defense will need to maintain discipline and be prepared for both the pass and run against a team averaging 12 points per game. Osage’s two biggest threats are senior running back James Hutchcraft and senior wideout Logan Havner. Hutchcraft has half of the team’s 1,148 rushing yards on the season and all but two of the touchdowns while Havner has 23 more receptions than any other receiver and nearly half of the team’s 1,036 passing yards and four of the team’s seven passing touchdowns. Minimize their impact and the Indians will have to look for others to step up and make more of an impact. Osage has also had some turnover problems in 2019 with 15 total so capitalizing on any miscues will also obviously be beneficial.

OSAGE KEYS

1. Flip The Script

Osage had a fairly nice start to 2019. The Indians were 2-1 at one point and had just opened up Tri-County Conference play with a hard-fought victory over California. The rest of the conference slate has not been very forgiving since and it is likely no accident that the teams the Indians have faced during their five-game skid have a combined record of 28-12. That is all behind Osage now, though, and a short memory- focusing on the opportunity that lies ahead to put a positive stamp on a challenging season- is all that matters. If the Indians can correct course and simply just execute all four quarters minimizing penalties and miscues, it will set the right tone for week 10 when the season turns into a win-or-go-home scenario. As one of the current bottom four seeds, this group will likely have to become “Road Warriors” in the district playoffs and it starts with a good test at Eldon.

2. Execute to the End Zone

The Osage offense will have to remain sharp Friday night. It is no secret that the offense on the other sideline, when successful, can control the tempo and control the clock which would minimize possessions for the Indians to move the ball and put up some points. Besides the defense itself, Osage’s best counterattack will be an offense that makes the most of its possessions and keeps a Mustang defense allowing 46.9 points per game on its heels. Hutchcraft continues to be a valuable asset in that mission with 578 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry), 114 receiving yards and six total touchdowns. Senior running back Jack Dulle, if he is 100 percent healthy, is also a nice dual-threat option with 106 rushing yards (3.5 yards per carry) and 127 reaching yards with two scores. Eldon’s defense has had issues giving up big plays throughout the year and that should excite a receiver like Havner who has 35 receptions for 460 yards and four touchdowns. Senior wideout Matthew Hans can also do some damage with 12 catches for 113 yards and a score to go with 67 rushing yards as well. If senior quarterback Drew Edwards (828 passing yards, 169 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns) can spread the pigskin around, the Indians may be happy with the result.

3. Dominate the Trenches

It is one thing to know what the opposing offense loves to do. It is another thing to have what it takes to be able to stop it. The success of Osage’s defense Friday night will all come down to the trenches at the line of scrimmage where Indians and Mustangs will clash for field position as Osage seeks to stop the run. Eldon has been fairly efficient running the football as a team with 2,253 yards and 24 total touchdowns on the season, averaging a healthy 4.9 yards per rush. The Mustangs are scoring an average of 21.8 points per outing and have scored no less than 26 points in each of the past two games against Boonville and Versailles. Dillon will be the main Mustang to stop as he has 40 percent of the rushing yards and half of the touchdowns and Osage will need to contain Hardy as well who has a knack for escaping the pocket as the team’s second-leading rusher. Hill has emerged as a dangerous runner as well so if the Indians can force Eldon to rely on a passing game that has produced just 196 yards and a single touchdown all season, the odds look good.

Camdenton looking to close out perfect regular season in showdown with Kickapoo

Perfection.

It is what any team in any sport hopes to achieve and Camdenton (8-0) now has a chance to close out its regular season that way after dismantling Rolla 49-14 last week.

Kickapoo (4-4) is the last team to stand in the way of the Lakers and a win against the Chiefs would not only ensure an unbeaten regular season, but an outright Ozark Conference title and an opportunity to secure home field advantage as the top seed throughout the district playoffs- which would be part of a five-game home stand at Bob Shore Stadium between the regular season and playoffs.

Safe to say, momentum should not be an issue next week. Not that it has been the case for a team that has overcome every challenge in its way.

“The key now is not to plateau, I guess you could say,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said after last week’s win over the Bulldogs. “We just need to keep getting sharper and I think that is really what our goal will be this week in practice- to keep getting better.”

That is likely not what opposing teams would like to hear for a team currently scoring an average of 51.4 points and allowing just 14.5 per game. Camdenton, a team ranked third in the latest statewide Class 4 media poll, has won all eight of its games in 2019 by an average margin of 36.9 points with its closest game being a 37-34 overtime win over a 7-1 West Plains team ranked fourth in the same poll. The Lakers have shown no signs of slowing down, either, with a chance to secure the conference crown for the first time since 2014.

Returning All-State senior quarterback Paxton DeLaurent added six touchdown passes to his season total in the win over Rolla and is now up to 36 on the year to go with 2,526 passing yards and just four interceptions. The Camdenton senior has also added 76 rushing yards on the ground as well with the “Hogs” on the offensive line doing their part to protect him.

DeLaurent’s top two targets in the passing game continue to be senior wideout Jase Nicklas and junior receiver Cooper Ezard. The former has hauled in a team-leading 50 receptions for a team-leading 751 yards and seven touchdowns while the latter has added 48 catches for 610 yards and a team-leading 11 scores. Senior wideout Talon Randazzo is another solid option in the air attack with 23 receptions for 262 yards and five touchdowns and senior Jadin Faulconer has been a solid dual-threat with 21 receptions for 283 yards and seven touchdowns to go with 204 rushing yards (6.6 yards per carry) and six scores while filling in for the injured Eli Griffin.

Speaking of Griffin, the junior tailback is set to make his return after missing the past five games and he has made the offense even more dynamic with 82 rushing yards (4.3 yards per carry) and two touchdowns on the ground to go with 13 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown through the air in the three games he played in. Another receiver who had a strong showing last week was senior Collin Thomas who led all receivers with five receptions for 10 yards and a score and is now up to 13 receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns on the season.

With so many options available to move the chains, it is not difficult to see why Camdenton has spent a lot of time in the end zone and the Lakers have been complimented by a stout “Purple Haze” defense as well. Returning senior All-State linebacker Ryan Maasen has registered a team-leading 53 tackles of which seven have resulted in a loss including 3 1/2 sacks. Maasen is also one of seven different Lakers with an interception as Nicklas leads that department with three on the season and the team has forced 24 total turnovers overall. A team average of eight tackles for a loss per game and a total of 22 1/2 sacks in 2019, led by senior defensive lineman Cort Petty’s 9 1/2 on the season, only helps the cause.

Last season, Camdenton took down a 2-8 Kickapoo 49-7 and this current Chiefs team is scoring 27.9 points per outing and allowing 18.1. The Chiefs come to Bob Shore Stadium on a two-game win streak including a 47-7 win at Hillcrest last week and if the Lakers can make it business as usual as they have done all season, that small streak may come to a quick end.

The Ozark Conference regular season finale is set for 7 p.m.

Versailles looking for playoff momentum in regular season finale at Hallsville

After starting the season 0-6, Versailles has won two straight and claimed Lake area bragging rights in the process with wins over School of the Osage and Eldon.

Now, the Tigers are hoping to add to the momentum and take a three-game winning streak into the district playoffs with another win in the regular season finale at fellow Class 2 Hallsville Friday night. It should be a good test for the Tigers, too, as they face a 6-2 Indian team that just knocked off a Class 3 state-ranked Boonville team on the road last week 27-14.

“Hallsville is a good ball club and it will be a chance for us to get a preview of what we are going to get in the playoffs,” Versailles coach Broc Silvers said.

“If we can beat Hallsville, which will be a tough task, we’ll have a chance to be a top four seed and host again. That would be the ultimate goal. Hallsville is going to give us a good test for what else we have to fix for week 10. They got a lot of kids out, a new coach from Battle (Justin Conyers) and are going to be a top three team in our conference.”

With one regular season game left to play, Versailles currently sits in fifth in the district stands just two points behind a 4-4 El Dorado Springs team for a chance to be one of the week 10 hosts as a top four seed in the first round of the district playoffs. It was Senior Night at Versailles when the Tigers handed Eldon a 49-26 defeat and if it just happens to be the final home game of the season, the team made sure it was a good one. The offense scored on all seven possessions, the defense made a crucial goal line stand and five different Tiger seniors scored a touchdown.

“It definitely meant a lot to us. I mean, we came out here ready to go, were all pumped up and wanted to give one last hoorah,” Versailles senior Coby Williams said. “We never know if we are going to play here again.”

Versailles will be going up against a Hallsville team scoring an average of 31.1 points and allowing just 13 points per outing. When the two sides met a season ago, the Tigers fell in a close 34-29 battle to a 3-7 Indians team and this time the Tigers will look to return the favor and put a dent into the better record of the opponent.

To do so, Versailles will need to keep clicking offensively as it has the past two weeks and it all starts with the field general Williams at quarterback who just led his team to its best offensive outing of the season last week against Eldon. Versailles is currently averaging 28.6 points per game thanks in part to a game against the Mustangs where the quarterback scrambled for three touchdowns and threw two more, completing 12 of his 13 passes.

Williams is now up to a team-leading 856 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, 1,622 passing yards and 13 touchdowns to just eight interceptions and has played a role in 29 of the team’s 31 total touchdowns on the season. But the senior will be quick to point that it takes everyone to find the end zone.

“We’ve been working all season and now it is finally starting to click when it matters. We are just going to keep on getting better and better from here on out I think,” Williams said of the connection with his receivers.

“We just have a lot of kids that can make plays. I mean, it is not all me,” he added. “We got the line blocking, we got the revivers getting open and running routes hard so it is just a good old team effort. We have a good system here.”

Senior Dallas Waller is one of the receivers who have done their part as he is currently up to 73 receptions in 2019 for 847 yards and seven scores. Fellow senior wideout Brayden Morrison has added 21 receptions for 233 yards and four touchdowns, junior receiver Michael Bell has caught 20 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown and 10 different Tigers have registered at least one catch. On the ground, senior running back Jordan King continues to provide fresh legs with 230 yards and a touchdown on 62 touches, averaging 3.7 yards per carry. Senior tailback Brycen Reynolds also found the end zone for the first time last week and is up to 29 yards on 13 carries, averaging 2.2 yards per attempt.

The numbers alone suggest that the Versailles defense will have to be on its toes next week against a Hallsville offense that has scored no less than 26 points in every game except for a 35-0 shutout defeat from the Class 3 top-ranked Blair Oaks Falcons. Versailles senior linebacker Quinn Randall continues to lead the way defensively with 74 total tackles and 32 more than any other player, including 7 1/2 tackles for a loss. The Tigers also have caused 10 total turnovers on the season, including seven fumble recoveries, and a few more could not hurt moving forward. However it shakes out on Friday, the team would certainly be glad to improve upon the 42.9 points per game it is currently giving up.

Time to see what Versailles can do with the playoffs looming around the corner. The two Tri-County Conference foes will kick off at 7 p.m.

““Hopefully we keep after it and our kids have never lost faith or they would not have own these last two ballgames,” Silvers said after the win over Eldon.

“We can only move forward. We are only guaranteed two more games so we are going to keep working and try to get these kids the best they can get.”